Weekly Musing: Take Me to Your eReader

Traditional books vs. eBooks. Which is better? Do the rise in popularity of eReaders and eBooks spell the end for traditional books and bookstores?

My thoughts on these questions is *shrug*, I don’t know. Personally, I still prefer books. I’m a bit old-fashion that way but I have slowly grown to be okay with eBooks. I have a second generation Kindle that I got as a hand-me-down from one of my brothers-in-law. At first, I didn’t have too many books on it. Just classics and fairy tales from around the world that were available for free download from Amazon’s website. That was at least a couple of years ago and at first, I sort of ignored my Kindle. For months it would sit, battery life crazy long, waiting for me.

My biggest hesitation was after staring at a computer screen all day, the last thing I wanted to do was stare at yet another type of computer screen to read for fun. My eyes needed the rest and my body, too. To completely unplug from the world and get back to basics. And I’m convinced I can read paper faster than a computer screen.

Another reservation was wrestling for a long time with the concept of paying for something that I can’t tangible touch. A book I can touch and I love the feel of a book. The weight or the absence thereof. The way I hold one depending if it’s a paperback or hardback, small or large. The way my cat bumps against the corner of the book pushing it forward so I lose my place. Or when she just flat out walks across my stomach in front of the book. I love breaking in the spine on them. I can write or highlight a book (only my books for research get this treatment).

A physical book has a certain magic to it. The cover art. The size. The feel. The smell even for some people and animals (I had a cat that loved licking the pages of books but only those printed before 1980). Going into a bookstore or library has a calming, tranquil effect on me. As I cruise those aisles, the whole world goes away. I’m in my own little bubble and get annoyed if anyone tries to pop it. I like being able to physically browse the shelves in search of a book that looks interesting. I find this difficult to do online even on the library’s website.

But for all the pros of physical books, they do have a small list of cons for me. The biggest one is portability. Paperbacks are easy to carry if you have a big enough bag for them. Hardbacks can be difficult to hold up if you are like me and read in bed. Another con of physical books is they take up a lot of space but I like the idea of building a proper home library. It’s cool going into the den and staring at a couple of bookcases full of books. But moving with those and finding space for new acquisitions is dicey. I have well over 200 books on my Kindle alone. Not sure how many physical books I have but I don’t think it comes close to 200. Cover art on a book can be a con especially if one is trying out a new author or genre. If you don’t want the whole world to know you are reading some bodice ripper or a gory horror novel, an eReader can conveniently cover this up. All anyone can see is the cover to the eReader itself.

Yet eBooks have some advantages over physical books. When I buy physical books, I usually get them used or from the bargain table that’s why I was shocked a few weeks ago to see the prices of a brand-new paperback book. The range was $12 – $16! For a paperback. A paperback. A bit much but then again I remember when paperbacks were like $4 – $6. I understand it is costly to print a book up but paying that much seems ridiculous. And it’s not like the author is seeing a lot of that money. The price of physical books really makes eBooks a lot more attractive. And authors get a higher percentage from a sale even if the purchase price is lower than a physical one.

Competitive pricing encourages me to be more willing to try a new author or genre. $.99 for a book? Sure, I’ll get it, what the hell. If it sucks, oh well. Of course, there is always the library but a lot of titles aren’t available for downloadable checkout. What is also neat, though, is Amazon has a list of free books. Some authors can choose to make a book free for a certain amount of time as a way to encourage people to try them out. Again, who wouldn’t want a free book? If the book sucks, I didn’t waste any of my money. I must admit, most of the books on my Kindle are free. I’m cheap like that.

So do eBooks and eReaders spell the end of physical books and bookstores? I hope not. And I don’t think so at least for a while. Not every book is available electronically so the need for physical books, bookstores, and libraries is there. The bookstores I go to, both chain and local stores, still attract a lot of people. And they are still bustling places full of bookworms. I suspect many of them are like me and have an eReader. Only time will tell especially with the younger generation, one that has grown up with some many more electronic avenues to movies, music, TV, and books than any previous generation.

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